Bassini given time to seek financial advice after being ordered to repay £4.4m (From Watford Observer)
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Bassini given time to seek financial advice after being ordered to repay £4.4m
The barrister of former Watford FC owner, Laurence Bassini, asked for him to be given time to seek insolvency advice after he was ordered to repay more than £4.4 million today.
A High Court judge ruled in favour of ex-Hornets directors, Jimmy and Vince Russo, in the dispute over more than £3.6 million they paid the Stanmore businessman before and during his tenure in the club.
The judgment left Mr Bassini, who was not in court today, with a total bill in excess of £4,469,000 to repay the Sicilian business brothers, as he was also ordered to pay interest on the initial sums.
Today’s decision came after a four-day trial earlier this month. During the case Mr Justice Spencer was told the Russos had paid Mr Bassini £3.5 million just before he took over Watford FC in March 2011.
Then in May 2011 they paid him a further £135,000. The Russos’ case was the money was straightforward loans paid to Mr Bassini personally to help him run the club. The initial sum, they said, was intended as "working capital" and the smaller amount was requested by Mr Bassini to help with cash flow issues at the club.
The Russos said the loans were initially interest free but then Mr Bassini agreed to pay five per cent interest on the sums in April 2012 to appease the brothers as he had not started repaying the loans.
Mr Bassini denied the sums were loans and said they were the price of a "sham" deal to give the Russos a secret 50 per cent share of Watford FC.
He said the £3.5 million was the cost of purchasing half the shares in the club’s holding company, which he held on trust for the brothers to keep their involvement hidden.
Mr Bassini also said the £135,000, which was the sum the Russos received for their shares in Watford FC in his buyout, was paid to square the ownership deal.
Mr Bassini also denied there had been any discussion with Russos over interest.
Mr Justice Spencer’s judgement said that Mr Bassini should repay both sums plus five per cent interest on the two sums the Russos say they had agreed with him in April 2012.
Nicholas Stewart QC, the Russos’ barrister, said he calculated the interest to amount to £568,600 to date.
The court was told that the Russos had racked up costs in the case in the region of £266,000, which Mr Bassini was ordered to pay.
Mr Stewart asked that Mr Bassini pay £150,000 of the costs within 14 days. This was accepted by Judge Spencer, who rejected a suggestion from Mr Bassini’s barrister of £100,000.
Mr Stewart also petitioned the judge to award the Russos indemnity costs because of the way Mr Bassini had conducted the case.
He said: “We submit that this defence was run in a thoroughly dishonest manner and a false point was taken in relation to this transaction”.
Mr Stewart added that his clients had also been subjected to some “pretty wild accusations” from Mr Bassini.
However the judge dismissed the Russos’ application for indemnity costs.
Judge Spencer imposed a freezing injunction on Mr Bassini’s assets of up to £4.5 million until the money was repaid.
Mr Bassini’s barrister, Jonathan Crystal, ask the wording of the injunction be changed to give Mr Bassini time to seek insolvency as well as legal advice following the judgement.
Today’s judgement comes after Mr Bassini was ordered at a hearing last year to repay £959,000 the Russos also lent him during his time as Watford FC owner.
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